Back in July, on these pages, I wrote about the long and slow decline of Storify, a platform which allowed users to aggregate links, photos and social media in one place.
It was a service much beloved by news organisations, particularly on breaking news stories, like a train crash, where all the different strands and types of media could be pulled into a bucket with a single URL.
The service started in 2011 and had four years at the top. And I loved it: I taught journalism and espoused Storify as an important tool in a news journalist’s armoury. It was also a very helpful presentation tool.
But by 2015, it had become a bit rubbish. We drifted away and, when I looked up an old file on Storify, found cobwebs, broken links and missing photos.
Take a look at this 2012 story, for example, about a $700,000 public fundraiser for bullied female bus driver in Greece that had 3.2m views. Look at the missing media and broken links: it’s really only the tweets that survive.
Now the increasingly inevitable, as it seemed to me back in July, has come to pass: Storify is to close, in May 2018. The company announced the news matter-of-factly and focused on telling customers how they could export their content.
Others used the story to emphasise how ephemeral the storage of content on social platforms is. Commentator Ian Milligan said: “it underscores how when we spoke about ‘archiving’ a hashtag on Storify, we weren’t really doing anything resembling that term. We were temporarily parking it on a free site until it inevitably closed.”
So true. Nothing stays free. If it does, it ends up like the altruistic and marvellous Wikipedia appealing for money every time you look up a story.
In fact, Storify will live on in another (paid-for) guise. It had been bought by Livefyre in 2013 which was, in turn, bought by Adobe in 2016. While Adobe is killing off Storify as we knew it, it has welded its bones into Adobe and will look to sell Storify 2 to those large news organisations who loved it five years ago.
It will provide “workflows and collaboration tools to streamline live blogging.” Except it won’t be aimed at small users and it certainly won’t be free.
But as I wrote in July, there are now alternatives. Seven of my students this summer used Scoop to aggregate a Charlie Gard story using the same techniques as Storify: searching by name, hashtag, dragging and dropping and re-ordering.
I said: “At first sight, it looks more a home for social media marketers than journalists, but it’s a good (free) alternative. Clearly, you’re being pushed to ‘take a step up’ to the Pro version (from $11 a month) which gives unlimited stories and stats, for a starter.”
Another teacher, George Williams, asked his students for alternatives to Storify, and they came up with an impressive list. But as he said: “None of those alternatives has become an essential tool in my digital life.”
The latest option to emerge this month is from Manchester-based Wakelet. It has raised £1m in investment and was quick to use Twitter search to identify people (like me) talking about Storify – and offer its alternative.
“Wakelet is another content curation platform – but it’s particularly good looking,” says reviewer Martin Bryant on The Next Web, damning the site with faint praise. But he makes the point: “The thing about services like Wakelet is that originality of concept aside, you can never tell whether they’ll click with an audience or not.”
In my brief look at the site, it does look slick. But it seems there is no drag and drop, as Storify had, and so it’s quite a laborious process to add individual links from Twitter, Facebook et all.
There will be a lot like me nostalgic for early Storify but free platforms disappear or go paid-for and we move on. I wish Wakelet a lot of luck but they and I know there is a demand for easy and attractive aggregation. May the best platform win.